OLD TOWN — There was something about South Deering that kept Christopher Jones in his old neighborhood where he was shot and killed alongside his best friend on a hot July night.
“That neighborhood is all he ever knew,” said Jones’ sister Sophia Smith. “That's where he grew up.”
The loyalty he felt for his neighborhood and for his those in his gang, the Latin Counts, likely led to his demise.
Jones, 30, was killed July 26 in the 2600 block of East 100th Street, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. He was the passenger in a car at a car wash, according to the office. The driver, Michael Hanes, 31, was also killed.
Family said the attack was likely gang-related.
“Once you're a gangbanger, you're always basically a gangbanger. You can't get out of that,” Smith said.
Jones and his family moved from Roseland to South Deering in 1998, a neighborhood on the city’s Far South Side that is largely Latino. Jones was a member of a mostly Latino gang, but he was one of the African-Americans participating in that faction, says his sister. The rest of his family left the Far South Side neighborhood after Jones’ father died in 2001.
In recent years, relations with another gang in the area, the Spanish Viceroys, deteriorated. And while many people moved out of that neighborhood because of escalating tensions, Jones stayed, his sister said.
Jones was never comfortable with formal education, but he had an innate ability to pick up new skills and knowledge. He attended George Washington High School but did not graduate. He received his GED later in life.
Jones would surprise his family with his hidden talents, from barbecuing to carpentry to computer technical support.
“It amazes me how folks could dismiss people just because they don't have degrees or anything,” said aunt, Pinky Donaldson, at her Old Town apartment. “I could put Chris up against any engineer that he could run rings around. He was just that smart. He just wouldn’t tell you.”
Jones had worked as a tattoo artist, inking people at their homes throughout the city. He was planning to open a tattoo parlor named “Black Knight.”
Family says he fell into gang life after his father, Ronald Jones, died in 2001 of sarcoidosis, a lung disease. Christopher Jones took care of his father in his dying days. The two were very close and family says Christopher’s talents come straight from his father.
“Chris took after him,” Donaldson said. “He had a great father and to see him deteriorate before his eyes changed Chris.”
The year after his father died, Jones began to commit serious crimes. He pleaded guilty to a 2002 robbery. In 2004, he pleaded guilty to having stolen items. And in 2006, he pleaded guilty to residential burglary, though charges of armed robbery and home invasion were dropped. Most recently, he was found guilty of domestic violence in 2011, which family says involved his girlfriend with whom he lived with until his death.
But in recent years, Chris was trying to change. While looking to open his tattoo parlor, Jones actively looked for work. The jobs included some that he got through Hanes, who also was trying to leave behind his gang life, family said.
“I'm not going to sugarcoat who he was, but there were two sides to him,” Donaldson said. “One side he was trying to pull away from, but that's what took him.”